Max Factor is best known for his invention of specialty cosmetics used in the early American film and television industries. Beginning with foundation products, his innovations expanded into the mass market. Factor also developed the concept that makeup used should match a person’s coloring.
Born Max Faktor in Lodz, Poland, he gained recognition as a wigmaker and makeup man for the Russian Imperial Ballet and the Grand Opera House. Immigrating to the United States in 1904 with his wife Lisa and their three children, his name was changed to Factor at Ellis Island. He found employment at the St. Louis World’s Fair displaying his skin creams. When the film industry began to develop, Factor moved his family to Los Angeles around 1909, began his company, and became a distributor for theatrical makeup manufacturers Leichner and Miner. Thereafter, Factor started experimenting with his own products for movie actors.
Career And Innovations
Coining the term makeup to describe his inventions, Factor gained recognition with his innovative approach to traditional theatrical greasepaint. In 1914, he formulated greasepaint into a convenient tube for sanitary dispensing—a lighter formula specifically designed for film actors that would not crack when dry. Available in varying shades, Supreme Greasepaint was the forerunner of subsequent foundation products.
When actors began using his product in their social lives, Factor launched Society Make-up in the 1920s, and developed the color harmony principle of matching makeup shades to a person’s coloring. His success in these endeavors won him a special Academy Award in 1928. Further innovations followed with Lip Gloss in 1930, Liquid Nail Enamel in 1934, and Pan-Cake Make-up in 1937 (adapted for color film). Hollywood stars were frequently used in his advertising campaigns and this resulted in huge returns. Pan-Cake Make-up was launched with color advertising and became one of the fastest and best-selling makeup items in cosmetics history. It remains one of the most popular cake makeup products.
Besides foundation makeup products, Max Factor, Inc. also had a strong reputation in wig manufacturing, one of the areas of Factor’s early reputation in Hollywood. The company thereafter expanded into clothing and perfume lines.
Max Factor died at age 59 in 1938; his son Frank took over the name and expanded Max Factor and Company into the high fashion and international markets. The innovative quality of the company continued, and known products followed: Tru-Color Lipstick (smear proof ) in 1940, Pan-Stick Make-up in 1948, Erace (concealer) in 1954. The company also had an Armed Forces Division that catered to servicemen’s female dependents, advertised the American Look, and even produced its own newspaper, Max Factor Country. The company was run by family members until 1976; it became a subsidiary of Revlon in 1987 and was acquired by Procter and Gamble in 1991. In 2009, Max Factor pulled out of the U.S market, a reflection of the recession and competitive market.